Tuesday, June 28, 2022

From the Readers (2022 edition), plus many cats

"I'm interested in restarting my ephemera blog, but it's difficult to find time while I'm temporarily alone in a large house in the desert Southwest with 16 cats, and anyway there's also that small matter of America's experiment with democracy appearing to spiral into the trash heap of history" ... is not a sentence I anticipated writing when Papergreat launched in November 2010. Heck, it's not even a sentence I imagined was possible when I went on potentially permanent hiatus seven months ago.

Yet here we are. That's Bandit in the photo. He's about 4 months old. Sometimes I get his name wrong and call him Bobcat. There are so many names.

Yes, there are currently 16 cats in this house. Or maybe 17. I have to go count again. The one we call Orange and rescued from the 110° desert heat had kittens this morning in the air-conditioned garage. There are either six or seven of them; it's hard to tell with all the squiggling legs and torsos.

[At this point, I had to take a break to talk to a neighbor who was curious about the cat situation. I had to admit that we have 16 or 17 cats right now. "Temporarily," I stressed several times, knowing that we're dancing precariously close to be Those People who warrant a call to the authorities for an animal hoarding situation. This is not that kind of situation.

After the neighbor left, I fed Mama Orange and was able to verify that there are indeed seven newborn kittens. So it's 17. Sev-en-teen. Temporarily.]

So, I'm interested in getting back to Papergreat. I miss the writing and doing the rabbit-hole researching. I mean, I still spend my sparse free time going down rabbit holes on the internet anyway, so I may as well get some blog posts out of it and share my obsessions with the world. And I still have so much I want to write about. Literally a closet full of things (pictured) that could become groovy blog posts.

[At this point, I had to take a break to scoop the cat-litter boxes, do the dishes and give the nine cats in the main part of the house their dinner.1]

The other things I miss greatly, in addition to writing and researching Papergreat, are sharing and interacting with the comments. Which gets me to my point (besides the cat problem): Y'all have kept Papergreat going the past seven months by continuing to provide some great insights with your comments on past posts.

So you get the first post of the relaunch. Here are the awesome reader comments since Papergreat temporarily closed up shop. For any potential new readers, I hope they also show the breadth of ephemera topics I've covered here over the many years.

1916 Thanksgiving postcard and "All good things...": Joan writes: "I have been (for probably obvious multiple-job-life-mess reasons) behind on my Papergreating, and I am reading this at 12:39 a.m. on Dec. 10, 2021, as I enjoy listening to a rare hard rain in the Arizona desert. And I can't help but think that maybe your OCD tendencies will work in my favor -- because if I post something as a comment, how could you not come back and write about it in a roundup? No matter what comes next, I hope I can read it."

Down memory lane with 1983 Topps Baseball Sticker Album: Unknown writes: "I have this sticker album, missing 3 stickers."

"Burlesque in the Church," a strongly worded 1970s religious tract: Unknown writes: "We had this tract at our church in the 1970s. My cousins and I were young teens and we were really entertained by this tract. Now that I'm OLD myself, I understand how the author felt, but at the time ... well."

[At this point, I had to pause to feed Mamacita and Shadow, a pair of semi-feral sibling cats that come to our backyard most days. They do not count as the 18th and 19th cats, because they are outdoors. That's my story, and I'm sticking by it.]

Book cover: "Cloe Spin and her Happy Family": Anonymous writes: "I was born in the early 1960s and at some point in my young life remember having a coloring book with clothespin people in it. Every once in a while over the past few years I have done Google searches for this coloring book. I finally found it and I bought a copy. I do not remember anything about the book other than the clothesspin people and am excited to have a copy after all these years. It must be a sign of aging on my part." 

The (new) oddest stuff I've found tucked inside a book: Unknown writes: "This was so much fun to read. I too, have a curious mind, as well a similar line of questioning when I happen to find items tucked into the pages."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Unknown writes: "I am 67 now I sold Cheerful Card company cards. I was just thinking about them and wanted to see if I could still find something from my past on them. Oh gosh, I couldn’t believe how many memories. Thank you. It was a great time in my life."

Saturday's postcard: New Jersey trolley line in 1907: Unknown writes: "My grandfather worked for the Shore Fast Line. After he married my grandmother, he went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, as her two brothers worked there. He eventually ended up in Key West as a conductor working for Henry Flagler on the Florida East Coast Railway."

Does anyone still own a 1-square-inch Texas ranch? There have been several comments on this one. Blogger rlt writes: "Hey I have my deed -- Anyone want to buy it as a lark?"

And Kevin Surbaugh writes: "I have a deed for one square inch of Texas land. Sure it's a novelty but hey it's fun."

And Don M. Patterson writes: "Howdy, I found this post while doing a deep dive on the history of this ad. The backstory involves a struggling record label, copyright infringement, and several wild claims. I posted my findings here: http://www.orgivemedeath.com/one-square-inch.html

[At this point, I had to pause to give Orange a snack. She's eating for eight now.]

Frank's Pig-Pen in West Berlin: Old advertisement and some memories: Unknown writes: "I remember the Pig-Pen, Linda's Lounge, and Charlie and Hank's home bar. Pretty rowdy at Linda's"

Postcard with dramatic view of Walzin Castle in Belgium: Kumbahya writes: "The link to 'interesting old image of Castle Walzin' doesn't work -- was hoping to see that. Maybe you saved the image?"

I replied: It's been 9 years, but I think this is the same image that I was referring to in 2013: https://www.agefotostock.com/age/en/details-photo/one-of-the-first-halftones-walzin-castle-dinant-belgium-1880/IBR-1906545

Postcard: The original Christmas Tree Shops location: Unknown writes: "I found an old metal tray with this same picture among my mother keepsakes. Wondered if you know the approximate date it might be from."

My best guesstimate would be 1950s or 1960s, which probably isn't a very helpful narrowing.

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Back in February 2021, Anonymous had written: "This short bio grabs me as I have been thinking lately about how little of us is remembered or retained in memory after we die. My mother's father, William M. Hoag came to the U.S. around 1900 from Scotland. He worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh where he was badly injured. He died of tuberculosis of the spine in the early 1920s. We have exactly one picture of him. That is the sum total of what we know about our maternal grandfather. I hope everyone else is doing a better job of chronicling their family members in 2021, as well as their ancestors."

Responding to that, Mr H writes: "Yes. You make some good points. It’s like we slowly disappear after we die. Years pass and those that knew us pass on. Very little is known after that except photos which often end up at estate sales, thrift stores, and the garbage." 

Plucked from a yard sale, Part 5: Is this Dondi the elephant? Responding to this 2011 post, Unknown writes: "You shouldn't be making judgments when you don't have facts. I knew Phil, Francine, and Dondi. She had the best of care, and LOVE. As an wildlife rehabber, I will tell you that animals in the wild can have the same issues as those in captivity. Dondi had a good life. It's expensive to keep an elephant. They needed to raise money for her care. If you don't understand that, there's something wrong with your thinking."

Fair enough. I appreciate this side of the story being highlighted. 

Ephemera from my grandfather's 300 game in Easton, Pa., in 1947: Pat Rohal writes: "Chris, my grandfather owned the bowling alleys."

A prayer card, a farm photo and a Mother's Oats coupon: Unknown writes: "My mother has a mother's oats box she stuck recipes in. It's not in real good condition. It has a small pic of a mother in a chair holding a spoon and a boy standing behind the chair at her shoulder. The box advertises that it contains a piece of Ekco kitchenware inside. Just curious to know what the date might be. I'm figuring maybe 50s or 60s???"

Ekco dates to the late 1880s and Mother's Oats dates to the 1890s, so it could be even earlier than the 1950s.

A label for Frostie Root Beer (a jailhouse-born beverage):  Csaali writes: "Just bought it today in St. Louis at Schnucks. Never knew of it before."

And as I wrote last year, I finally discovered it out here in Arizona.

"It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.": Anonymous writes: "I don't think a Gengar is a grue."

With that, we have the first Pokemon reference in Papergreat history.

[At this point, I had to pause to fill the cats' automatic water bowl, which is making a gurgling noise that's quite distracting. Also, Bandit has returned and is now sitting between my arms as I type.]

1915 post-Christmas postcard: "Many thanks for the stationery": Unknown, possibly commenting on the wrong post, writes: "I just found, in a box of keepsakes, four Cheerful Card Company catalogs, dated 1956/1957. I proudly sold the cards and all the misc. --- the beginning of my love for sales. I am 77 years old, and a Realtor, never forgetting even the smell of opening a box of the paper products! I would love to visit the present factory."

1938 receipt from Albert Brothers Steam Bakery: Unknown writes: "I have a display case from the bakery."

With apologies in advance... Happy Halloween! Dave Pattern writes: "'Wimpey the Clown' was Bert Hiles of Swansea, UK. He married Kassie Overend of Holmfirth ,who was famous in the 1940s for owning a pet tiger named Fenella that she'd take for walks around Holmfirth!"

This all checks out. Wow! 

Montoursville 2018: Hurr's: Anonymous writes: "I worked at the Montoursville Hurr's Dairy from high school through college. My manager was June Scott and she was a wonderful lady. I have fond memories of my co-workers and remember my high school chemistry teacher lived on the other side of the building. A wonderful Montoursville memory (and the peanut butter fudge sundaes have never been replicated!)"

Elaborately designed envelope for Bennett Printing Company: Back in March 2016, R. Armstrong had written: "My father used to work there and my grandfather was president! It was running at least a few years after I was born (1981). So cool to see someone liking what they did!"

Responding to that, Carol Brown wrote in May 2022: "R. Armstrong: I worked there in 1977. I was their only female salesperson. I believe they hired me to see if I could break ground with the very famous Adola Cooper at the Bloom Agency, which I did. Your father sat two desks behind me and your grandfather had his own office. I can't remember their first names. Carol Brown, now age 74 and living in Illinois."

Examining the Tunguska Event via newspaper headlines: Back in February 2020, Tom of Garage Sale Finds wrote: "I remember reading 'The Fire Came By' back in the 80s when I was fascinated with all things paranormal and space-related. It bothered me that Dan Aykroyd [in Ghostbusters] referred to it as the Tunguska blast of 1909 rather than 1908. Hey, I was (am) a nerd." 

Responding to Tom this year, Anonymous writes: "Having an interest in such things, Dan Aykroyd would have known the correct year, but his speech needed a cadence, and '1909' with its assonance, provides a more-pleasing and assertive final sound than the open-mouthed '1908.' In other words, he was making use of literary license."

To which I responded: "I love your reasoning for this, Anonymous. I think you're right, that it does make the line hit harder. One area in which Ghostbusters is rarely topped is in the top-notch comic delivery of lines."

Family memories: The huge Dixie Cup near Easton: Anonymous writes: "My grandfather is Harry Gehm, who designed the Dixie Cup statue. My father is Alan T. Gehm and I need more information."

Old photo postcard of Brackenhurst Hall in Southwell: Anonymous writes: "My granddad worked as chauffeur for Lady Hickling. He lived in the gatehouse with his family. My dad spent some of his childhood there. It would have been late 30s/early 40s."

Postcards: Three American motels that are now just memories: Anonymous writes: "Hi Chris. This is an old post, but wanted to thank you for the Monteagle picture. I’m from there and as a kid, always thought it was so modern and cool. It was sad to see it go."

Bookseller's label for The Norman Remington Co. of Baltimore: Robert Deblois writes: "I recently found a first-edition Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, with the "Purdy" erratum, at an estate sale, in very fine condition, that had on its last page the same Norman Remington Co. bookstore stamp. I was very happy to learn more about that bookstore."

Superstition connection from nearly 40 years ago: Joan writes: "told you I am behind on my reading! I am just now seeing this, and I want to say how lovely it felt to read your compliment on my cards!"

Photo footnote


Monday, May 16, 2022

Thursday, November 25, 2021

1916 Thanksgiving postcard
and "All good things..."

Happy Thanksgiving!

I like the message on the front of this vintage postcard: "May happiness with you abide and never leave your fireside."

It was postmarked and mailed to New York state in late-November 1916. The cursive note states:
"How is every one? We are all well but father. Had doctor for him Sat. Why don't you write? Where do you spend Thanksgiving?"
Today's an anniversary. I began Papergreat with this post 11 Thanksgivings ago. Thanksgiving also fell on November 25 in 2010. 

So there's symmetry if this is the final Papergreat post. Eleven years on the dot, 3,498 posts. Now, 3,500 would be a rounder figure, you might say. But 3,498 divided by 11 works out to exactly 318 posts per year, on average, so there's your round number. And, wow, that's a lot of posts, if I do say so myself.

Do I still have a Papergreat to-blog list? Of course. It includes Fisher-Price advertisements1; sci-fi author Jesse Miller; the Winchester Mystery House; the 1971 board game Drug Attack; the haunting Miss Christine; poster artist Bonnie MacLean; the Essex House book Lovely by David Meltzer; my Pappy's World War II reminiscences; the Steve Jeltz Fan Club, the postcard tales of Loren E. Trueblood; and essays I still want to write about a half-lifetime of working in the newspaper business and watching movies.

But there's always going to be a list, right? There won't come a day when I reach into a box and pull out the very last slip of paper that I could possibly write about. That's not how ephemera — or ideas — work. 

So regrets about unfinished business can't be the driving reason to keep writing Papergreat.

Is this the last Papergreat post? I don't know. I've wrestled enough with that question recently to know I don't have a definitive answer. At the very least, this is the last post for a while. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I know I don't want to continue with the short daily items I've sometimes posted merely to satisfy my self-mandated, OCD goal of a certain number of entries per week. 

Maybe I'll transition to only writing super-sized holiday or seasonal posts. And/or continue to put longer ephemera-themed writing projects here when they're ready. I am compelled to continue writing, and I want to try some longer pieces moving forward.

I suppose there's a chance that some writing might show up on resimplify.me, an intriguing domain name I've been squatting on for awhile. No guarantee of that, but I thought I'd mention it for posterity. And I still plan to maintain a Twitter presence

I'm still fascinated by history and ephemera. The stories that can be told and the questions that can be raised by mere pieces of paper. As the year-end holiday season approaches, I am reminded of one of my personal favorite Papergreat posts: A merry Christmastide to you, Marguerite E. DeWitt.

Finally, as I was mulling this post, I think it's kismet that I came across an amazing Twitter thread about the power and importance of ephemera. It's by @PajamaStew, and I'm going to share it here in its entirely. Again, for posterity. These stories do matter. And I'm grateful on this Thanksgiving for PajamaStew's amazing piece of writing and that it was released into the world:
I may regret sharing this, but I have a very personal story I would like to tell. I hope it doesn't get too long... Anyway...

I was 20 years old when I was sent to erase a man from existence and became haunted by him.

I was going to college in Texas at the time and a group of us were contacted about a service project. The State needed a handful of young volunteers over the course of a Sunday afternoon and I was one of about ten that agreed to help. We were asked to go to the home of an elderly gentleman that had recently died and help sort his belongings. He didn’t have any close relatives and his estate was going up for auction.

So, we were tasked with tearing everything out of his home and identifying items that had value to place inside “Auction” boxes, while the rest would be tossed in “Trash” boxes. I was excited about spending an afternoon doing service work with a group of friends.

I was not prepared for what I was about to face in this dusty little house somewhere in west Texas. It was immediately unsettling to step into a stranger’s bedroom and try to assign value to his possessions. Should we really be digging through his drawers trying to decide if any of the tiny bits remaining of his life were of any value now that he was gone? The truth hurt, as I was forced to admit that almost none of it had any value.

No one would want to buy an old deck of cards or a worn sweater. There’s no value in VHS tapes or water-damaged paperbacks. The “Trash” boxes grew heavy. The “Auction” boxes sat mostly empty.

I was already rattled by the experience when halfway through I opened a closet in a guest bedroom and found a stack of banker boxes. Inside I uncovered something that made my heart freeze.

I’m shuddering as I write this. The boxes were filled with several old photo albums.

I was tempted right then to just throw the entire cursed things in the trash without ever opening them. But I couldn’t do it. I was drawn by the mystery of those albums. They were covered in dusty fingerprints as if a ghost had prepared them and then led me to find them. And they were now pulling me gently down, begging me to open the covers and to be a witness of what was inside.

Inside I found a man’s life, compartmentalized into a stack of images, bound together in leather books. Photos.

At first of a young boy. Black and white. Faded. Surrounded by strange people. Happy. Brothers together in a field. A sister with long black hair. A dog on a porch somewhere. As I turned the pages, I watched as the boy grew. His hair became longer. He became a young man. He grew a mustache. It went away. Sometimes he was in the pictures. Sometimes the pictures were a vision seen through his eyes.

I saw what he saw. I saw what he valued and found beautiful. Stones. Light. Shadows. And then, suddenly, as if conjured from those stones and shadows, he was joined by a young woman. She was also beautiful. Flowing brown hair and brown eyes. Always seeming caught mid laughter. I could hear her. I still hear her. It was haunting. I fell in love with her, or rather, I fell in love with the way he had fallen in love with her. It was a love that caught in my throat.

They grew. Held hands. Were married. I smiled, seeing their joy as they stood together at the altar. My heart nearly stopped seeing her in her simple white dress, as if this man had possessed my body and was looking at these photos with me, through my eyes, one last time.

Time passed as I sat cross-legged on the floor meditating over the albums.

I heard my friends as they banged around in the kitchen and elsewhere struggled to move a dusty red couch from the living room, but I sat solemnly in the closet desperately looking at every picture in the dead man’s album. I felt torn. I could not look away.

So, I hid, and I forced myself to look at each and every picture.

I turned the pages, and the young man and the young woman grew old.

Here was a happy couple standing together at a white fence in front of a small house somewhere in west Texas, him in a tan fedora and matching suit coat, her in a dark green dress. Here was a woman on the porch drinking tea watching the sunset. There was a speckled dog sitting on the porch beside her.

Time passed so quickly as I turned the pages. It felt unfair as if I were hurrying their life on to its conclusion. The couple stood together and smiled at me apologetically from an old polaroid. I kept going.

There were no children. Only various friends. Side characters appeared for a time and then disappeared at random as new ones arrived. But always it was the two of them, the man and the woman. Adam and Eve standing in their dusty garden around a flowering Creeping Thyme.

The sun flickered in spirals across the pages. And then suddenly it happened. The woman, the beautiful woman, she started to change quicker than the man.

Her eyes became sad. Her laughing smile became less frequent. She looked tired. There were no more trips to the Grand Canyon. No more summer drives and picnics in the forest.

She was dying.

And then I turned a page and she was gone. There were still several more albums of this man’s life, but from that point on he was alone.

Instead of this beautiful laughing woman, he took pictures of stray cats. Instead of posing with her in front of motels on some blazing yellow-tinted adventure, he took photos of the moon over a dark house shrowded in purple twilight.

The man was less visible in the images now. As if he were already fading out of existence.

Sometimes he showed up in mirrors or reflections in dirty shop windows. An old man in a tan fedora, alone, in a house, somewhere in west Texas.

I closed the last album and sat for a long time on the closet floor, resting my head back against the wall.

My fingers burned with the realization of what they had to do next. It was time to make the choice about where the photo albums should go. Where was this man’s life going to be placed? Did it have value or was it “trash”? The answer to the question hung over my head like a sword.

I closed my eyes, replaced the lid of the box, and put it back in the dark corner where I had found it. I couldn’t do it. I quietly closed the closet door and walked away.

Later I returned to help some friends move a dresser from the same room and out the corner of my eye I saw where a shaft of light now fell onto a blank patch of carpet in the corner. The photos were gone. Maybe they had never actually even been there.

I thought about this as I helped maneuver the heavy dresser through the now empty ribcage of the home.

As we were preparing to leave, we were met in the yard by the person from the state that had called us to help. They thanked us for our efficient work.

I just stared at the ground in shame watching a cloud of ants as they carried away bits of something hidden in a tuft of nearby grass. We were ants. I shook my head. No. We were vultures.

As payment for our work, we were told that we could take one item from any of the “Auction” boxes to keep for ourselves. My coworkers leaned their heads into the cardboard tombs and somberly held treasures up to the sun.

They playfully fought over who could take the old jewelry that looked as though it hadn’t been worn in years (Only I knew how many). One boy took a heavy flashlight, another took a pocket knife.

I waited, uneasy with the whole ghoulish activity, and as I waited I wander through the ocean of “Trash” boxes. I ran my hands over the items with a reverence that I did not fully understand.

I felt like I knew this man, and it humbled me that I may be the only living person on Earth that did.

Was it possible that I was the only person to contain the knowledge of him, the only one to watch him grow from a young boy into a man, the only person to watch from a distance as he fell in love, the only person that saw him as he watched his love die?

I was a stranger, but I had, by strange chance, followed him through his life watching as his life boiled and dissolved down to a small collection of silent images, preserved and rifled through in the course of 30 minutes time by some young boy hired to erase him. That alone would be the gift, I decided. Just carrying the memory of this man secretly inside my soul. That is all I would take with me.

But then I passed a box full of black garbage bags and something caught my eye. I froze in place. I was suddenly unable to even breathe. With a trembling hand, I reached deep into the pile of discarded debris and touched it. It was real.

A tan canvas fedora. The same exact tan canvas fedora that I had seen this man wear so often in photos that it had almost become a part of him. It was in the pictures with his wife, and it was in the years that follow. This hat had gone with him.

I held it gently by the brim and lowered it onto my head. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it somehow felt right. It felt, providential. I felt like something quiet and sad had led me to find it and now that it was on my head there was a change in the air. There was contentment.

I slowly walked back to meet up with my group as they waited to climb into the van. As I stood in line with them I stopped for a moment and turned around.

I was standing just inside the gate of a white picket fence on a paved walkway leading to a small house somewhere in west Texas. I turned to look at the house one last time, I adjusted my hat, then I closed the gate and left.

I wore that hat for the next ten years of my life.

It traveled with me around the world. I was yelled at once by a Ukrainian woman for placing it on the ground in a park. And I nearly caught it on fire by foolishly hanging it on a lamp in Mexico City. It was on my head as I climbed to Machu Pichu and it ducked through a stone doorway with me as I explored the Coliseum of Rome. And I was wearing it at the airport in Kiev as I waited for the plane carrying the woman that would later become my wife, and I held it behind her back in the rain a few days later as we kissed under the watchful eye of Lenin.

I have albums of pictures hidden away and I’m proud to say that this old canvas hat shows up in it often. I stopped wearing it around the time that my first daughter was born.

It was starting to get dingy and show its seams and there was something that felt disrespectful about that. So, one day I took it down off its hook and I walked to the shed and placed it in the box where I save my most loved possessions.

Someday, perhaps a long time from now, a young boy might open the lid of that box and find an old canvas hat and then ... who knows? 

— @PajamaStew


1. If this is going to be the last post, there has to be a silly footnote, right? So, I ask, what fresh hell is this, Fisher-Price?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

From the readers: Karloff, Garland, Ormsby, Merril & lots of spooky stuff

As we tumble toward Thanksgiving, here's another batch of your always-appreciated comments on Papergreat posts:

Mild Fear 2021 debuts with Boris terrifying Buster: Commenting on Facebook, Dad writes: "Pure comedy. Probably wouldn’t make the headlines today. People need something to enjoy and laugh at. But then, people are too serious and wound too tight to be able to let out air and live."

Halloween Countdown #14: Live Mystery Egg: When I put this 2011 post up on Twitter again, author A.G. Pasquella (@agpasquella) noted: "It's so strange the kind of animal isn't listed anywhere in the ad! Then again, Sea Monkey ads never mentioned brine shrimp, so I guess it's in keeping with comic book advertising."

Mystery vintage postcard: "Haunted House" near Delaware, Ohio: And when I reshared this 2016 post on Twitter during October, author Chris Woodyard (@hauntedohiobook) provided this additional information: "Perhaps the only structure left at 'Robinson House,' a lavish mansion built by an artistic 'pirate' on the banks of the Scioto. He vanished, leaving behind rumors of treasure. The site is haunted by the ghost of a young Spanish woman. I wrote about it in Haunted Ohio III."

From the Rare Dust Jacket Files: Hucca's Moor by Manning-Sanders: Desmond Banks emailed in September to identify the cover artist of this novel: "Thank you for your Papergreat website. The dust wrapper was the work of my grandfather, William Nicholson, www.williamnicholson.net. See page 229 of William Nicholson: The Graphic Work by Colin Campbell (Barrie & Jenkins, 1992)."

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Wheels Go Round asks: "Isn't it far more likely that she died in childbirth?"

My response: "There's nothing in the scant news clippings to support that she died in childbirth. And if she did, the child died too, without even being listed as a stillborn death anywhere. So I'm not sure about that hypothesis."

Spinnerin selling the privileged yarn-based lifestyle in 1963: Tom from the dandy Garage Sale Finds blog writes: "re: The cover. What the heck is going on there? Tide rising? Flooding? They'd better not get those knitted sweaters wet. They'll shrink!"

Vintage chipmunk postcards and the love of nature's critters: Joan writes: "This post was exactly what I needed on a bleary-eyed morning."

Postcrossing roundup: Early autumn 2021: Joan, postcard & notecard designer extraordinaire, writes: "Thank you so much for introducing me to one of my favorite things this year."

Sci-fi book cover: "The Best of Judith Merril": Brian Busby of The Dusty Bookcase writes: "Judith Merril is a name from my pre-adolescence. I'd never read her until a few years ago, after coming across an inexpensive first edition of her debut, Shadow on the Hearth (1950). An early Cold War novel set largely in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion in Manhattan, it isn't so much about the death and destruction, rather how the government and select citizens exploit the ensuing chaos. "Atomic Attack," the 1954 The Motorola Television Hour adaptation, captures much more than one might expect of the novel. Both are recommended. Looking back through my notes, I see I described Shadow on the Hearth as my most memorable read of 2017 in the pages of the Montreal Gazette. I think they were expecting a new book, but who is to say it isn't contemporary. I'm happy to learn of this collection, Chris. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. You've reminded me that I meant to read more Merril. I've just ordered a copy."

Postcard: House on the Rock in autumn: Wendyvee writes: "This has been on my 'to do' list for a very long time. That increased all the more with American Gods."

Where does this Kodak snapshot rank on the Mild Fear scale? Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes, regarding the Halloween mask: "That's a good one. I checked the archives (aka Google) and couldn't find any that matched it. It's amazing how many variety of witch masks Collegeville and Ben Cooper produced."

Vintage classroom poster that sparks mild fear: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Wow, that's dark. The kid would have made it if he hadn't chosen to perform his mime routine 'Pulling a Rope' in the middle of the road."

Snapshot & memories: Kitchen at Willow Street house in Montoursville: jhkh writes: "Hi! I was digging around Facebook and found your pic of the Lyter fire engine. [Note from me: More on that at the end of this post.] ... I was at Lyter from 72-77. I wanted to find a pic of the Lyter 'spider' playground equipment and this led me back to your blog here via a Google search. Then I found this post about Willow Street. I grew up on Pine Street near the intersection on the other end of Willow from your place. My parents still live there! Fun memories."

Kicking off Halloween with a postcard mailed 100 years ago: Anonymous writes: "I live in the house that was the summer home of the Silliman family and, eventually, Mary's home until her death. What a fun thing for me to find so long after you posted it!"

Saturday's postcard: RPPC with family, jack-o'-lantern and cat: Tom from Garage Sale Finds asks: "I'm wondering about that Jack O' Lantern. It has a handle. Is that a real pumpkin they put a handle on? Or is that a metal (or other) fake pumpkin?"

My response: "That's a great question. There was a jack o'lantern with a handle in an old photo the other day, too. I have to think that 100 years ago, it was typical to rig up some kind of homemade handle on real carved pumpkins, because I doubt the mass-produced ones we're familiar with today were either widespread or inexpensive. But it would be interesting to investigate further."

Do you want to hear something REALLY scary? Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I never had these records, but really wanted them, particularly this one that was advertised in the back of comic books: http://www.heyrube.com/images/haunting_1000.jpg. The scariest recording I can think of (at least scary to me at the time) was on one of Leonard Nimoy's 'In Search of...' episodes where a team of ghost hunters made recordings from tombstones in a cemetery. I recall one EVP that said, 'I'm scared.' The idea of a ghost being scared really bothered me as a kid. Thanks, Leonard."

1977 children's book about actual (maybe) haunted house: Tony Zimnoch writes: "Great Blog! I just found you! I have given you a plug on mine. Keep Up The Good Work! Best Wishes from Tony."

Saturday's postcard: Japanese girls imitate the three wise monkeys: Commenting on this 2012 post, Marnie writes: "Hi Chris, I'm a Japanese researcher specializing in modern culture and ran across this webpage. Let me explain about the Japanese text, though it may be too late. The text is written in the old character form of Japanese, from right to left. It says 'Union Postale Universelle Postcard,' the same thing as in French, unfortunately."

Judy, a black cat and a ghost book:
 Commenting on this 2014 post, Ken from Dublin writes: "Just saw the photo on 'Pointless,' the British game show. Couldn't find the book either, though there is a book of the same title from 2012. I wonder was it's title inspired by this photo."

Alan Ormsby's 1970s: Summoning zombies and a Scholastic book: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "This is such a great book. I got from my classroom library in 2nd grade (and kept it, but that's another story). I tried to use the makeup tips in the book to create my Halloween costume in 4th grade, but I didn't come out looking like the kids in the book. I still had fun though."

And Bob writes: "I enjoyed your article, and thank you for the shout-out to our Jillian & Addie channel (this is their father, Bob). Alan Ormsby certainly is an interesting man! Happy Halloween!"

Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books:
Commenting on this 2013 post, Anonymous writes: "I worked at Ell's in the 1960s assisting Mr. Ell Senior and can remember his reliance on Englishmen to manage the store's leading departments, like Toys and Books. It was an enjoyable period of employment."

10 postcards showing Atlantic City as you've probably never seen it: Miranda Reitz writes: "I have 2 varieties of these postcards, one is the ocean scene showing Traymore, Chalfonte, and Haddon hall as shown in the photo, and the other is view from Ventor pier. I have quite a few of each, and none of them were ever circulated. I'm looking to try and find what their value is, if possible? If anyone can help give me an idea of worth, I'd be appreciative! (And if anyone is interested, feel free to contact me!)"

Snapshot & memories: Relocated fire engine in Montoursville: Finally, after this blog post went up on Sept. 11, people continued to share memories and photos of the fire engine and the stagecoach on my Facebook crowdsourcing post. Here are some of them:

  • "Was a staple on the Lyter Elementary playground! Fell off of that and got hurt many a times. Baseball players could also become legendary for hitting balls over the 'fire truck' from the Little League field. Lol. Awesome memories! Ty for sharing."
  • "I played on this fire truck at Lyter when I was a kid. This playground truck brings all of us memories of our youth."
  • And Chris Palmer shared these pictures from mid-1970s Lyter Elementary School yearbooks:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Fun at the New York World's Fair in 1965, Part 1

This week I'm going to share a few illustrations from inside "Fun at the Fair ... where and how to find it," a 4-inch-by-8-inch staplebound brochure that Bell Telephone Company distributed for the second year of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. (For a bunch of past World's Fair posts, click on the label down below.)

A disclaimer on the third page states: "This booklet is distributed free by your Bell Telephone Company. It is not for sale. Rates, schedules, etc., given here are based on the best available information at the time of printing. Naturally no promise of accuracy can be made, since there may very well be unanticipated changes later on. To prevent inconvenience it is suggested that you phone ahead to verify any information that may be important to your plans."

The information number to call 56 years ago was (212) 888-1212. It doesn't appear as if that New York City number is for anything special anymore.

Anyway, here's the first series of illustrations. It shows a very 1960s white American family using telephone technology to plan a family excursion in a snazzy sports car. Note that Dad has a pipe in every illustration. And a bow tie.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Book cover: "COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games"

  • Title: COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games
  • Additional cover text: "A comprehensive guide to designing, writing, and playing computer adventure games. Includes 'Tower of Mystery' a ready-to-type-in adventure  game for virtually any home computer, as well as reviews of many popular commercial games."
  • Author: Gary McGath
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Publisher: COMPUTE! Publications, Inc., one of the ABC Publishing Companies, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Year: 1984
  • Pages: 203
  • Format: Spiral-bound paperback
  • Cover price: $12.95 (That was very pricey for 1984! The equivalent of more than $32 today. I reckon they figured that everyone who dabbled in home computers in the 1980s had money.)
  • My experience with this book: I've had this book since it was purchased during a visit that Dad and I made to a small computer store in Pinellas County, Florida, in either 1984 or 1985, when we were living in Largo. I think Mom and I must have tag-teamed typing the six-page BASIC program listing, "Tower of Mystery," into our Commodore Plus/4, because I wrote some marginalia on those pages stating "NOTE: WHEN A LINE BEGINS WITH REM YOU DON'T HAVE TO COPY IT." Mom and I were playing some Infocom games and a few Scott Adams games during this time, and we were happy to have another short text adventure to play.
  • About Gary McGath: He still has many footprints online in autumn 2021. Based in New Hampshire, he's on Twitter (@GaryM03062); he as an author profile page on Goodreads, which indicates that his other books include The Magic Battery, Yesterday's Songs Transformed: A Historical Tour of Song Rewriting; and Files That Last: Digital Preservation for Everygeek; and he has at least two webpages: garymcgath.com/wp and mcgath.com. I like this statement from McGath atop one of those websites: "Words are the most powerful things on Earth. Words change everything. They keep our knowledge alive. They let us stay in touch with each other. They can convey beauty. They give us four of the best things in life: talking, listening, reading, and writing."
  • Chapter titles: Stories in Software, What Makes a Good Adventure?, Infocom Adventures, Scott Adams Adventures, Sierra On-Line Adventures, More Adventures, Action Adventures, A Field Guide for Frustrated Adventures, How They Work, Doing Your Own, Tower of Mystery: A Simple Adventure Program, The Edge of the Future.
  • Acknowledgments: "Thanks are due to many people for providing information and ideas for this book. Special thanks go to John Baker, Kevin Bernier, Denise Bouley, Stu Galley, Scorpia (for more than just that material that appears under her name here), and especially to master adventurer Steve Wright. In addition, I would like to thank the many members of the CompuServe Game SIG who have widened my knowledge of adventuring."
  • Dedication: "This book is dedicated to all the creators of new worlds."
  • First sentence from introduction: "One of the major fringe benefits of working in MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science in 1976 was being close to ARPAnet."
  • And what was cool about ARPAnet? As McGath continues: "One of the most popular programs that we received over ARPAnet was a new game, by Will Crowther and Don Woods, called Adventure. I was hooked from that start and spent many weekends at the lab trying to find my way through the Hall of Mists, past the Troll Bridge, and out of the maze of twisty little passages."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "Remember, no matter what the program does, don't let them have that number!" [McGath is describing the 1982 game Prisoner 2.]
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "If prefiltering reveals no problems, the next step is to call the action routine for the particular verb token."
  • Goodreads rating: 4.6 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2011, Kevin Rubin wrote: "I bought this book in 1984, and I've been carrying it around the world with me since then, I took it to college, I took it to the big city when I got my first job, I took it to India when my job took me there and I still have it on my nearby bookshelf in New York City. It's not particularly useful now, but as it was the first computer book I ever bought, I'm quite attached to it."
  • Amazon rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Marek wrote: "Book is very good (if you put it in its proper time era context) in introducing the reader to the genre as well as teaching about the basics and more advanced elements of the text adventure game design and even introduces the reader to the programming."
  • Another online assessment: In 2017, We Are the Mutants' Brother Bill summarized the book, chapter by chapter, with a few of his thoughts added in.
  • Final note on text adventures: If you want to take a deep, fascinating dive into the history of text adventure games right up to present day, I recommend Aaron A. Reed's "50 Years of Text Games" Substack, a yearlong series that is heading into the home stretch. It has covered The Oregon Trail, Hunt the Wumpus, Super Star Trek, Zork, Pirate Adventure, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Photopia and much more. Reed's main website is aaronareed.net.

Saturday's postcard: Le Trocadéro in Paris

Here's an E. Le Deley postcard with a front view of a long-gone structure in Paris, France, that I first mentioned in a post way back in July 2012

The Palais du Trocadéro existed in full from 1878 to 1936. (The postcard I referenced in 2012 called its demolition "a perfect vandalism!!!") According to Wikipedia, "The palace's form was that of a large concert hall with two wings and two towers; its style was a mixture of exotic and historical references, generally called 'Moorish' but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud."

This building was expensive and not well-received. You can read much more about it in this excellent 2019 post titled "The ugliest building in Paris" on the Parisian Fields website.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Football obsession, 60 years ago

This editorial cartoon by Frank Miller, poking fun at the obsession over football, appeared on the front page, above the fold, of the Sunday, November 12, 1961 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register. Exactly 60 years ago today.

At three columns wide, the cartoon is the main art on the front page, with a two-column-wide head shot of Jean Seberg serving as the only other prominent artistic element. ("Otto got rid of me like a used Kleenex," Seberg states in the article, speaking of director Otto Preminger. Seberg died at age 40 in 1979; her short life with was beset by tragedy and she was the target of viciously unfair treatment.)

This was amid the long heyday of American newspapers. The Register billed itself as "The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon." Its Sunday edition featured 202 pages spread over 11 sections, for a cost of 20 cents. (The advertising revenue was surely tremendous.)

Miller was a staff cartoonist for the Register from 1953 to 1983 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1963, for his cartoon about the futility of nuclear warfare.